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Catching Up with “Life” in Buffalo

Buffalo is unlike any other city, for the most part. Only recently have we started to see the tides turning when it comes to investment into the urban core. For years, people moved to the suburbs, taking their money and their businesses with them. New businesses arose around the hoards of people who split, creating urban sprawl. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about today.

Instead, I want to talk about a city that is on the move, but compared to large metropolitan cities, is still just reawakening. On the weekends it can be fairly desolate, which to some people who are not familiar with Buffalo, is a bit odd. During the summer it might not be as noticeable, but when the weather gets cooler, Downtown Main Street can be pretty quiet, especially after work or on the weekends. Yes, that is starting to change, but to visitors who are not familiar with Buffalo, it’s a head scratcher at this awkward growth stage. Even with all of the new restaurants opening, most have business hours that are dedicated to the M-F business crowd. People are moving into the city to live, yet at the same time there is not a heavy  concentration of residents at this point.

This morning I received a timely email from David C., who had a pertinent question on his mind. Although he’s a big fan of Buffalo and grew up here, David moved away a long time ago. While he does not live here, he does visit, and when he visits, he brings friends and family with him. During past visits, David has encountered instances when he felt that he had built up high expectations, only to have lackluster results. Buffalo is not a city where everything is concentrated (at least not now). So David’s question is, “What’s the best way to get around Buffalo seeing all there is to see, while enjoying the so called vibrancy that everyone is talking about?” The last thing that he wants to do (during an upcoming visit) is to tour his friends and family around and find closed restaurants, fountains shut off, and typically vibrant districts in “sleep mode” for the winter. From David:

I’m headed home to Buffalo with my family and some friends this Thanksgiving.  Most are from big, very walkable cities. NYC.  San Francisco, DC.  Portland.  So how do I show them this “New Buffalo” I keep hearing about?  I want to see it too!  Whenever I used to bring these same friends to Buffalo I was always kind of embarrassed, driving around a still desolate downtown; especially this time of year.  I left town in the late 80s but Buffalo’s struggle to be a great walkabole “city” again has been a sort of unfinished story I haven’t been able to put down ever since.   

We’re in town the whole week leading up to Thanksgiving, so I’d love some suggestions, some driving routes with a few stops to walk around in-between to take friends and kids, and not be embarrassed!
More specifically, what time of day (also weekend or weekday?) is it best to see some street life on Elmwood?  Actual people walking around, like a real city?  When is it crowded at Canalside?  Hertel?  Larkinville?   And I’m not talking about a big “event” crowd at a concert or anything – just a “busy” time when the streets have some life?  Maybe a Sabres game makes Canalside seem lively? Lunch hour?  What other stuff can we do?

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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